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Friday, April 17, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Enforcing Conformity

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

In an opinion piece entitled “Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana”, Frank Bruni of the New York Times says what much of our culture is thinking about Christians these days.

Riffing on the ‘Memories Pizza’ story from two weeks back in which a pizzeria in Indiana was forced to closed its doors by a barrage of online threats after its Christian owner answered a hypothetical question about catering same-sex weddings, Mr. Bruni starts with the statement that “… homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere”.

In Mr. Bruni’s world:
“… the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners … elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that we’re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified.”
Tom: One of those “magnificent riddles” is with me today. Immanuel Can, this subject keeps coming up even when we’re not looking for it.

Bring on the Magnificent Riddles

Now I’m fine with gay op-ed writers who disagree with Christians as to what God says on the subject of their favorite perversion. Normally I’d barely notice them. But in his final two paragraphs Mr. Bruni steps things up a notch: he and his friends have decided — their words, my italics — that “church leaders must be made to take homosexuality off the sin list”.

Immanuel Can: Well, for years we’ve been hearing that it’s only a matter of time until the government turns against Christianity. But I think few of us felt that day was actually too near, or that the attack would come in the present form. Did you see this coming?

Tom: My father used to say persecution was coming. He said it many times. But you know what they say: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” I think that was Joseph Heller. So, yeah, I’ve believed it was coming for ages, but I can’t really take credit for being particularly prescient.

What I’m wondering is how they expect a bunch of people who genuinely believe in God to bow to their little dictates. The bravura of Mr. Bruni’s statement suggests to me that he has never for a second entertained the notion that we actually believe this stuff. He can’t even conceive that possibility.

The Triumph of Modern Wisdom

IC: Clearly he doesn’t believe in any of it. His argument is basically, “Modern wisdom can supersede anything — even the word of God”. In that, though, he has company, as he has pointed out: liberal “Christians” have been selling out truth for social acceptability for more than a century now.

Tom: I find his rationale for forcing gay acceptance on Christians interesting though: that “… we’re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified”.

Is it possible to miss the point more spectacularly? No believers I know are suggesting that homosexuals are “more flawed” or “less dignified” than even the most serious and committed Christian. We all sin, of course. We are all flawed. We all compromise whatever limited dignity we might have.

But there is a monumental difference between a committed Christian who slips and begs forgiveness, and a defiant reprobate who insists that God accept him on his own terms.

IC: Yes indeed. The sins he lists are not less sinful for being common, nor for being widely accepted by sinners. And even if he should get his fondest wish — that they found a “gay gene” or something like that to suggest that people were “born that way”, that would not tell us whether or not to fight that inborn passion — for we are told in scripture that we all are, in fact, “born in sin”, and yet sin is the very thing we are to fight … in ourselves first, but not less in the standards we uphold to others.

Tom: So sure, we are all equally special snowflakes, Christians and unbelievers alike, and all equally sinners and condemned outside of Christ. But nothing could be less relevant to the question of whether a lifestyle of deliberate, continuous sin should be countenanced by the Church. And frankly, even if the Church were to indulge it, that is absolutely meaningless when God condemns it.

The Prostration of the Conscience

But this is a battle both we and Mr. Bruni have surely rehearsed before. What I don’t recall is anyone so blatantly demanding that the consciences of millions of Christians be prostrated before the gay lobby.

IC: Apparently, within that lobby itself there are people who are not happy with that conclusion, right? What would you think their motives might be?

Tom: Correct. For instance, Courtney Hoffman contributed $20 to a fund in support of Memories Pizza (a fund which, by the way, raised $842,000 in 48 hours). She said this
“As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean spirited attacks on you and your business. I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business according to those beliefs. We are outraged at the level of hate and intolerance that has been directed at you and I sincerely hope that you are able to rebuild.”
The same thing occurred when gay activists took Stephen Boissoin to the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission in Alberta over a letter to the editor in which he said, “Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds”. There were gays who came out in support of Boissoin’s right to free speech even though they didn’t agree with him.

It seems to me these folks see individual freedom of conscience as being more important than their own rather chimeric “right” not to be offended, even when that “right” is offered to them by government.

Freedom vs. Equality

IC: That’s true. I think this situation sets two sacred liberal values against one another: equality against freedom. “Equality”, in their understanding, means that in the ideal, anyone they want to regard as human (no to the unborn, but yes to sexual deviants) is to be given all social goods. But “freedom” means the right to live the way you want. If we enforce liberal “equality”, we are going to diminish liberal “freedom”. And some from the sexual deviant groups are astute enough to realize that their freedom to do as they please is likely to be even more important to them than their right to equal treatment ... so, ironically, they end up siding with conservatives in their own best interests.

Tom: That said, I don’t think Christians can rely on those sorts of gays being in the majority, and I don’t expect they’ll be able to steer the social consensus or dictate the rather inexorable direction in which our laws are trending.

Bernie has written rather well on the subject of rights legislation and the complications related to tax-exempt status for churches. But I think this Indiana pizza scenario, along with Brendan Eich’s ‘resignation’ as Mozilla CEO, demonstrate that this is going to get personal for the believer, and sooner rather than later.

Church Trolling

IC: Oh, absolutely. And there’s a certain cachet within these interest groups if one of their members manages to isolate some bastion of moral opposition, such as a church, makes them the object of adverse public attention and, if possible, of a lawsuit as well. So they actively seek out places where they can force a decision from a conservative person or institution — over something such as the provision of services, request for ritual or enrolment for membership — then they claim injustice and sue. Subsequently, they get to be seen as heroes and freedom fighters by their peers and get to make pests of themselves to the moral opposition at the same time.

Tom: In the pizzeria case, it was actually a reporter posing a hypothetical question that started the ball rolling. So you know where the media is lining up.

I was talking with a local church elder a couple of weeks ago who seemed willing to go to the wall with this if necessary: to lose the church building, the tax-exempt status and whatever official recognition we currently have with the government rather than compromise the word of God. Fair enough. The Lord never promised us a rose garden.

Counting the Cost

But say you have four kids to support and are confronted on the job by an SJW determined to get you to answer the $64,000 question about where you stand on homosexual rights, how would you respond?

IC: I’d say I don’t have four kids to support, so it’s an easy question for me. But I think it’s pretty clear that consideration can’t be a hold-back either. The issue is the truth of God, not the preferences of man, nor even my personal situation.

Tom: We’re not there yet, but it’s conceivable that some of us will be looking at the “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” dilemma where whoever does not fall down and worship gets cast into the fiery furnace of public disapproval and looming unemployment. Except that what we’re being asked to fall down and worship is slightly less religious in nature and … well, tawdrier.

Now I certainly don’t want to jump the gun or be melodramatic, but it’s in the nature of these kinds of social changes for people to be in denial that they are really underway. I can’t say that I know too many churches that are taking this seriously. We’re still talking about new extensions on our buildings.

The Court of First Resort

IC: No. And some people suggest that we can always challenge any government regulation on constitutional rights grounds, so there’s no problem. What’s your estimate of the likelihood that resorting to the courts is likely to remedy the problem?

Tom: No idea about Canada, but after the U.S. Supreme Court rewrote Obamacare as a tax despite acknowledging its unconstitutionality, I think it’s pretty clear which way American courts are trending. Lower court rulings in red states are not going to change that.

Now we do have recourse to a higher court of appeal, but that Court isn’t part of the U.S. judicial system …

IC: Indeed we do. And it is that Court’s rulings that are truly decisive.

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